Teeth are extremely important for patients in many ways but unfortunately can easily be overlooked by patients and clinicians during treatment for head and neck cancer. Fortunately, at Aintree we have a well developed team and we are making every effort to ensure that patient's teeth are not overlooked during treatment.
Dental problems are common in patients with head and neck cancer and it is important that a full oral screening is undertaken prior to cancer surgery. It is mandatory that patients are screened prior to head and neck radiotherapy.
Below, you can download a Dental Advice Leaflet for use both during and after radiotherapy.
Here are the answers to some common questions:
Why do I need a dental checkup before my cancer surgery?
It is important that any dental problems are discovered prior to treatment and an appropriate 'plan' produced to help the doctors treating your cancer. This may mean that any teeth which are badly decayed or are likely to cause you problems in future are taken out at the same time as your operation or before you have radiotherapy. Sometimes cancer surgery will mean that you are not as able to open your mouth wide after treatment making dental treatment very difficult afterwards. In such cases, some back molar teeth may need to be taken out to help you and your dentist in future.
Can my own dentist treat me after my cancer treatment?
Yes! - there is generally no problem with you receiving normal dental treatment after your cancer treatment. In fact it is really important that you see a dentist every 3 to 6 months after your treatment to help pick up any future dental problems early. I f you have had radiotherapy though, we recommend that your dentist does not take any of your teeth out as there can be problems with your jaw healing afterwards. These extractions should be carried out by a hospital-based Oral/dental surgeon who is experienced in such circumstances.
Will I need all my teeth out before treatment?
The vast majority of patients will not need all their teeth removing although there will be some whose teeth are in such a poor state that they should be removed. The dentist or consultant who assesses you will be able to advise you whether any teeth should be removed or treated and will be able to explain why.
How does radiotherapy affect my teeth?
Radiotherapy itself does not physically affect the structure of the tooth itself but the effects of radiotherapy on the mouth make it more likely that your teeth will decay. Radiotherapy often produces a dry mouth as it damages the salivary glands. This reduces the amount of saliva in your mouth. Saliva is responsible for 'washing' your teeth and protecting them from decay. If you are not careful with what you eat and drink then your teeth can rot very quickly. It is very important that you do not eat sugary foods or have sugar in your drinks. If you are unsure what things to eat/drink then please ask your dentist or clinical nurse specialist.